Food for thought|Life Aboard

The Changing Ocean and the Changing Mind

The following article was written by Sea|mester student Annastasia Pedersen, and can be found in Sea|mester’s publication The Telltale.

Unfortunately, it’s no longer rare to see news articles surrounding the degradation of our environment.

As I sit in my college classes, surrounded by concrete walls and the hum of student minds, environmental problems are recognized, debated, and analyzed. But they have taken a new meaning since the walls of concrete have been replaced with those of water, and there is a new hum of ocean creatures and wind passing through the sails surrounding me. Within the last month of living on Ocean Star, the issues surrounding the marine ecosystem have become palpable based upon my experiences of living directly in and around the sea, yet the beauty of this environment does not cease to exist. The constant beauty and force that the ocean emanates has become a prominent factor in the day-to-day happenings of life, creating a more expansive perspective of the marine environment in my mind – of its wonder and power, as well as its vulnerability and fragility.

One aspect of living aboard Ocean Star that has opened my eyes to the marine environment is the access to the underwater realm that we have through scuba diving. With the ability to breathe underwater we are also given the ability to explore new landscapes; from underwater sculpture gardens, to plane wrecks resting peacefully on the ocean floor, the possibilities are endless. As I swim beneath meters of water, the ocean’s beauty infiltrates my mind, as well as the sad truth of what no longer exists. Countless coral heads are holding-on to the last bits of life, and fields of algae cover the sea floor – their growth exacerbated by pollution from rainwater run-off. My sea fan friends are courageously fighting off fungal attacks while the fish continue to graze on algae in an effort to keep their habitat in-check. Being able to constantly observe the systems in place has allowed me to create my own relation with them; Suddenly these problems are no longer headlines, they are the reality of what I’m perceiving, making them more real and prominent in my mind.

While living on the sea, I no longer feel the separation that living on land creates. My body sways with the swell, accustomed to the ocean’s breath – feeling in-sync with its pulse, even though it still has the power to knock me across the deck. The rolling waves on the surface hold a beauty that has become such a part of my life, yet hide the hurting environment below; calling me to search for solutions. The way we rely on the marine environment reminds me of how much control it has, as it provides the wind that carries our boat and the water that sustains our bodies. Its powerful presence offers so much on our journey. As we get to know its creatures and its contours, the ocean urges me to continue shifting my actions to be mindful of its well-being.